Migrating Ghosts in a Haunted South: A Conversation with Margaret Renkl at Belmont University

Humanities Symposium

College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Babel: Origins & Ends of Language

September 23-27, 2024

“Everyone knows what language is, but it is notoriously difficult to define,” reads the opening sentence of Millward’s A Biography of the English Language.  So, what is language?  A human invention? A biologically evolved trait? A foundational technology? A uniquely human ability? Certainly, discoveries related to whale and bird song in particular make it almost impossible to argue that last proposition.  What is it about language that both ties us to and divides us from not just other human beings but other living things? Indeed, is it human language itself that is distinctive or is it the role language has played and continues to play in what it is to be human?  And what if one of our own creations were to master language: would that make us any less human? Language any less of a wonder? These are just some of the questions we hope to grapple with in our 23rd Annual Humanities Symposium, “Babel: Origins and Ends of Language.”

More information to come! 

Every fall semester for the past 23 years, the School of Humanities, with the support of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, has organized and presented a week-long series of interdisciplinary talks, panel discussions and activities on a topic which engages with a central aspect of the human experience.

Past symposia have focused on subjects ranging from fairy tales to food, time to technology, Benjamin Franklin to the lunar landing, democracy to otherness, travel to home. In addition to presentations by featured speakers from across the country - including writers, philosophers, social reformers and academics from a wide range of disciplines - presentations and panels by Belmont faculty and students have consistently provided most of the events, involving participants from across the campus. Most events are offered for WELLCore credit. Additional activities coordinated in conjunction with the symposia in years past have included an international film festival, art exhibits, an astronomical viewing, service projects and field trips to local and regional museums. Recordings can be accessed through the Belmont Library Open Commons at the Belmont Digital Repository.

Visit this page to watch past symposia sessions.

2023 Humanities Symposium Program